THE price of progress is that Darlington Mowden Park will place a bigger premium on next Saturday's first national league derby than on what is now an annual flirtation with the Powergen Cup.

When they had to win the Durham Cup to get into the national event, the visit of teams like Rosslyn Park, sent packing four years ago, was a big event.

Had the passion of that memorable occasion been recreated on Saturday, another Division Two scalp could have been taken. But the new realism accepts that the cup can't be won, but perhaps promotion to Division Two can.

Stirred by the previous week's heavy defeat by Blaydon, Mowden tuned up for the visit of Darlington with the sort of performance which will be good enough to beat their neighbours but wasn't quite good enough to match Wharfedale.

Mowden fought back from 20-10 down to level the scores, but Wharfedale kicked a penalty as the game entered injury time to earn the win which, on the balance of play, they just about deserved.

Both teams scored three tries, but in wet conditions the visitors' well-drilled mauling gave them an edge. All their tries came from back row men, while Mowden's came from backs.

There is bound to be some fall-out in Mowden's liaison with the Falcons, and the first victim appears to be winger Aidan Phillipson, who was again selected on the wing but did not appear. He apparently has higher aspirations.

He was replaced by Luke Stringer, who is normally a scrum half and had a mixed baptism, while two other Newcastle Academy players made their debuts in centre Mark Laycock and Nigeria-born forward Eni Gesinde.

Laycock showed touches of class but the conditions were not conducive to running rugby, while Gesinde replaced lock Ian Robinson for the last half hour.

He was a little fortunate that the referee felt a high tackle was due more to his undoubted enthusiasm than to malicious intent.

Hooker Tasi Tuhana did get sin-binned, however, for illegal interference when Wharfedale were going for their second catch-and-drive try.

The resulting penalty put them 15-10 ahead and while Tuhana was off Mowden got shunted off their own scrum ball and Wharfedale drove on to score.

It was former West Hartlepool stalwart Paul Evans who came up with the ball and he certainly made his experience count after going on at blind side for the last 25 minutes.

Props Dave Sinclair and Ian Keeligan did well for Mowden, Jon Dye foraged hard at No 6 and there were flashes of the dynamism Kelekolio Paino showed in the second half of last season.

But the highlights were two blistering breaks by scrum half Andy Foreman, the first taking him half the length of the field to score and the second ending with Stringer dropping what might have been a match-winning pass when the scores were level.

A penalty to the corner brought the first score for Wharfedale's impressive No 8 Ben Wade, but Mowden quickly went in front.

Mark Bedworth kicked a penalty and when the restart went straight into touch Foreman broke from the resulting scrum and cut inside the full back to go under the posts.

Just before half-time Mowden got in a tangle in midfield after taking a quick line-out, and Wharfedale broke away for Wade to score again.

The conversion made it 12-10 at half-time and more Wharfedale pressure led to Tuhana's sin-binning and it was no surprise when the lead was stretched.

But with ten minutes left Mowden attacked strongly up the right and when play was switched left full back Iain Dixon raced on to a perfect kick to the corner by Bedworth to score.

Five minutes later came a similar score with Stringer putting through a grubber kick for left winger Chris Mattison to touch down.

From ten metres in, Bedworth's attempt to snatch the lead failed agonisingly when the conversion came back off the bar.

Wharfedale's kicker had missed two conversions and a straightforward penalty. But given the chance to win the game with a 35-metre kick he made no mistake.

Result: Darlington Mowden Park 20, Wharfedale 23.